It’s not a reach to say that the success of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” hinges at least in part on that memorable opening line — “We don’t talk about Bruno, no, no, no” — delivered by Colombian singer and actress Carolina Gaitán voicing the feisty Pepa.
“The ‘no, no, no’ is where the suspense is,” Gaitán tells Billboard. “It was very important to imprint that it was gossip and with that kind of feeling of, No! You can’t talk about Bruno. Why? It was a little bit tricky but we enjoyed it so much.”
Gaitán, a successful and well-known Colombian actress who got her start as a singer (more on that later), spoke with Billboard via Zoom from her home in Bogotá while fellow actor Mauro Castillo — who plays hubby Felix — spoke from his home in Orlando.
Together, the pair represent the plurality of Colombia, playing a mixed-race couple (Castillo and Felix are Black), who are ostensibly from Colombia’s Caribbean coast, as evidenced by Felix’s trademark guayabera. They’re also fierce dancers to the tune of “Bruno.”
“Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius,” says Castillo, a recording star in his own right who was previously a singer for venerable salsa band Grupo Niche. “The song is a cha cha cha with montuno, and it’s amazing that you have the tambor, salsa [playing] around the world. I heard it and I told my wife, ‘This song, it could be big. It invites to dance and to enjoy the music, the movement, the color.’”
Although we see Gaitán and Castillo dancing together in “Bruno,” the pair never actually recorded together due to Covid constraints. Instead, each recorded from their own studio, via Zoom, with Lin-Manuel Miranda directing the session.
“In fact, we hadn’t listened to it before,” says Castillo. “I got the score first, and then the audio file in an encrypted mode for security. I thought, this is the real deal. And I met Lin-Manuel and he said, ‘Yeah man, I remember Grupo Niche!’”
“Everything was a little bit fast,” adds Gaitán. “Because of the strict confidentiality with the script and everything, they told me, ‘We’re going to do this song, you’re doing it with Mauro Castillo’ — and then they gave me the lyrics and the music two days before recording.”
For Gaitán, who began her career in entertainment as a singer winning a reality show in Colombia, the biggest challenge was acting in voice only. Recording long distance, she says, “was interesting because you don’t have the chance to be in front of them, but it’s related to what you’re doing. You have to express everything with your voice, not your physical form.” Gaitán and Castillo recorded both the Spanish and English language versions of the song, a duality Miranda encouraged by speaking to both of them in the two languages.
Castillo, who says he learned English by reading recording studio manuals, working in the language was an adjustment. “In my house, because I come from Colombia, my kids and my wife tend to speak in Spanish. This is my heritage,” he says. “And because of this movie, I was [like], ‘Let’s switch.’ I was very consistent in the fact that I need to improve my English to play a special Felix.”
Watch Castillo and Gaitán perform for Billboard an impromptu version of “Bruno,” appropriately enough, via Zoom.
For more information, please see more information about Who sings we don’t talk about bruno in encanto